Body Talk, Athletic Identity, and Eating Disorder Symptoms in Men


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Abstract

Recent findings suggest that men engage in appearance-based conversations, but little is known about the consequences of these discussions and whether certain populations may be at a greater risk of negative outcomes. Males who self-identify as athletes may be particularly likely to engage in body-focused conversations. The current study explored associations between body talk, athletic identity, and eating disorder symptomology in two samples of undergraduate men. Participants reported the degree to which they identified as an athlete, the frequency with which they engaged in muscle- and fat-focused appearance conversations, and eating disorder symptoms. Controlling for age and body mass index, more frequent body talk was associated with an increased number of eating disorder symptoms. Athletic identity did not emerge as a moderator. Follow-up analyses suggested that “fat talk” was more strongly associated with eating disorder symptoms than “muscle talk.” The current findings suggest that engaging in appearance-focused conversations related to body fat, but not muscularity, may be associated with eating disorder symptoms in men, regardless of athletic identity.

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